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John Morris

Steam or Boil Wood for Bending (Elia Bizzarri)

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An informative article on the Steam Box by chair maker Eliah Bizzarri. He brings in the often forgotten method of boiling your parts instead of steaming, and how boiling can often be the better choice.

 

@Pauley understands the benefits of boiling parts for his shaker oval boxes, and I have built a steam box for my chair parts. Both methods have the same outcome, but getting there has it's benefits and pitfalls for each method.

 

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Do you really need a steam box? Boiling parts in water serves the same purpose as steaming and requires a simpler set-up with fewer heat-loss issues. ‘Chairmaking in High Wycombe’ references boiling of chair bows and I have bent table legs, shaker boxes and hay forks in pots or pans of boiling water.  Boiling  require less equipment and has fewer pitfalls than steaming (boiling water is always 212 degrees), so if your parts are small and few, boiling is probably your best bet.  Only the section of your part that is being bent needs to be heated.

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HANDTOOLWOODWORKING.COM

Do you really need a steam box? Boiling parts in water serves the same purpose as steaming and requires a simpler set-up with...

 

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I’m no expert on this matter, so what I say here is only from my experience.  I fell in love with the shaker style a long time ago..and after a visit to the shaker village in Canterbury, NH I was hooked.  I watched as an artisan made a shaker oval box right in front of me....I asked him why cook (or boil) the wood instead of steaming it, he said it was simply a choice.  When I got home from our visit, I found a gentleman named John Wilson and we exchanged mails (not email..ha ha ha)...he was kind of a mentor to me when he found I wanted to make these boxes.  And when the subject came to cooking the wood, I again asked him why cook instead of steam and he said the same thing...it’s just a matter of choice, although he preferred cooking the wood and felt he got a better result.  Now, with that said, with making these oval boxes, the wood is only about 1/16 of an inch thick.  I think if you wanted to bend wood that was for a shaker rocking chair, as John Morris has done so beautifully, I think steam would be a better way to go.  Cooking a thick piece of wood, in my opinion, would take a lot longer to cook, rather than steam.  Again, I’m open for corrections, as this is just my opinion.

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John,

   Boiling water is not "always" 212 degrees. Where I live (4500 ft) water boils at 204 degrees (that's why there are adjustment times when canning food).

Also steam has more thermal energy than boiling water (somewhere around 700 calories per milliliter) Steam and boiling water have the same temperature, but there's more energy in the steam.

Fun facts it takes 1 calorie of energy to raise the temperature of i milliliter of water 1degree C; but in order to form ice water must lose about 50 calories of energy and to become steam water must gain the 700 calories mentioned above.

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2 minutes ago, Wichman3 said:

John,

   Boiling water is not "always" 212 degrees. Where I live (4500 ft) water boils at 204 degrees (that's why there are adjustment times when canning food).

Also steam has more thermal energy than boiling water (somewhere around 700 calories per milliliter) Steam and boiling water have the same temperature, but there's more energy in the steam.

Fun facts it takes 1 calorie of energy to raise the temperature of i milliliter of water 1degree C; but in order to form ice water must lose about 50 calories of energy and to become steam water must gain the 700 calories mentioned above.

A good reason to use a reliable temperature probe. 

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